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Ghost Hunting At Drakelow Tunnels
I spent yesterday evening locked inside a labyrinth of dark, dank tunnels on the hunt for paranormal activity. The sinister network of passageways once housed a wartime aircraft factory before being turned into a nuclear hideout. The site is now an airsoft venue and has a whole list of reported ghost sightings, as you might imagine for a venue with so much history. I went along to this eerie location to see if I could spot any supernatural occurrences for myself.
The organised ghost hunt was put on by the paranormal events company, Haunting Happenings. I arrived along with a friend just before 7pm on a hot summer's evening and before long the organisers led us and 15 other guests into the tunnels through a heavy blast door.
The tunnels, located in the heart of the Black Country, are built 90 metres down, underneath a country park, but access is at road-level at the foot of the hill so there's no step to descend in order to enter the tunnels, which meant that straight away we were hit by the drastic change in air temperature. The cool air of dark tunnels was a welcome break from the summer heat outside.
The foreboding facility, located near the village of Kinver and the town of Kidderminster, is built within a grid system of interconnecting tunnels. The four main lateral tunnels are over 5 meters wide and almost as high. These main tunnels are connected along their length by smaller tunnels. Together the passageways make up a disorientating maze of 3.5 miles of tunnels, covering over 26,000 square meters.
The tunnels' distance below ground and lack of windows means it is void of all external stimuli, there's no draughts, no sounds from the outside world, no phone signal, and absolutely no natural at all. Once the iron blast door slammed shut behind us we were in complete darkness and cutoff from the outside world, making this venue the perfect place for paranormal investigations and we were all raring to attempt to make contact with the spirits of Drakelow under the guidance of Jill and Gemma.
The tunnels were originally excavated into the sandstone hill to house the Drakelow Underground Dispersal Factory which was used by more than 500 employees of the Rover Motor Company to manufacture aircraft engines for the Ministry of Aircraft during the WWII.
After the war, Drakelow Depot, as it was then known, was put on standby by the Home Office as a nuclear bunker during the Cold War. The facility was kitted out with everything needed to house 325 local government officials, armed forces and heads of emergency services in the event of a nuclear strike on the United Kingdom.
This new protected Regional Seat of Government was built in the top part of the facility and was fitted out with a new kitchen, dormitories, medical facilities, a telephone exchange and even a BBC studio which could be used for broadcasting news to the outside world.
The site was modernised in the 1980s but was downsized, reducing its capacity to just 134 staff. Luckily, as the threat from Russia dissipated, the bunker was never put in to operation and became surplus. It was decommissioned and sold to a private company in 1993.
Are The Tunnels Haunted?
Drakelow has previously played host to Yvette Fielding and her team in a 2014 episode of 'Most Haunted,' and it's no surprise they picked the tunnels as a venue when you learn about the location's gruesome past.
According to newspaper reports at the time, at least three men were killed by a roof fall while digging out the tunnels in the 1940s, there are reports since of factory workers being killed underground after being hit by trucks and while riding conveyor belts.
Modern-day visitors who dare to wander through the darkness have reported hearing strange noises, screaming and cries, and disembodied voices. Many have even reported more violent poltergeist activity in the tunnels and have said they've felt something push past them as they make their way through the vast underground maze. Are these visitors experiencing the spirits of those who lost their lives underground or something much more sinister?
The tunnels are believed to have been built under an ancient hill fort which had its own graveyard where hundreds of bodies were buried. During the tunnelling the dead were disturbed and as a result a "demon guardian" of the burial ground is said to take a disliking to anyone who enters the tunnels.
This could account for sightings of a dark shadowy figure which has been seen by visitors. Airsoft participants have pursued fellow players in the darkness, only to turn a corner and find themselves faced with a dead end and no figure anywhere to be seen.
Even the site's owner, Sid Robinson, won't set foot in the tunnels alone after experiencing how bad the hauntings can get. While working alone on a ladder one day, he says he was pushed and fell, breaking his leg in three places as he landed.
Sid describes the demon who haunts the tunnels as a half man, half dog-like creature and says people have felt it brushing past their legs in the darkness.
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The Ghost Hunt
The four-hour long event started with a 15-minute induction in the "base room," formerly a canteen kitted out in the 1980s. The room was decorated with candles which really set the mode of the event. Jill told the group, most of whom had never been on a ghost hunt before, that her and her colleague Gemma were researchers who keep their "feet on the ground."
About half of our group described themselves as skeptics, including me. Jill had a word of advice for our kind, "please be open skeptics this evening, you've got four hours to prove yourself wrong."
I did of course approach the event with an open mind, I'd even brought a couple of bits of ghost hunting kit with me. I hadn't brought my full collection of paranormal devices with me because I was a bit worried about coming across as a bit of a ghost geek, but as it happens I think I could have brought anything I wanted, everyone at the event seemed interested in ghost gadgets.
Jill then proved that she was a rational researcher by offering advice on how to take photos while underground, she told guests to stand still and take three photos as quickly as your camera will allow you to, this way if you spot something in one photo you can use the other photo to corroborate it. She also warned us to be careful of our breath, the cold atmosphere means it's easy to catch a ghostly mist on camera unless you hold your breath while taking a snap.
Then it was time to move out into the tunnels and for the first time I really grasped how big this place was, we passed across two of the main passageways and found ourselves at a spot which the organisers called "the crossroads" for our first vigil.
Along the way a few of the girls in the group heard a strange whistling sound that they couldn't place, we heard the same sound as we arrived at the crossroads and formed a circle. Jill reminded us once again to take it seriously and then we were asked to turn our torches off and were plunged into complete darkness.
This is when we saw our first strange vision, what appeared to be a disembodied pair of glowing hands. It turns out this was just the nail polish of one of the other guests. Four brave volunteers were then selected to take on special roles in the first vigil, but I won't ruin that for you. The rest of us in the circle held hands and Jill began calling out to the spirits.
This lasted about twenty minutes and Jill was really good at it, in the darkness it could have almost been Yvette herself asking the spirits to come forth and communicate with us. After a while Gemma joined in too and then we were all encouraged to go around the circle and introduce ourselves to any spirits that might be present.
Jill and Gemma placed a few bits of paranormal kit in the circle, including EDI meters which monitor temperature and four torches, each a different colour and set up so that spirits could turn them on and off at will. I'd never seen this technique before and the torches did spring to life and seemed to be turned on and off by the spirits under the instruction of our guides... well, almost, the spirits didn't seem to be too obedient, sometimes turning on the red one instead of the blue. In reality I suspect those torches would be flashing away of their own accord without any instructions to the spirits.
The spirits were able to answer closed question by flashing torches, for example "if you died here, flash the green torch." Before long there was a mention of the spirit of a security guard who patrols the tunnels from beyond the grave with his dog. Jill didn't seem to pleased about the appearance of this particular spirit and at his mention some guests noticed the temperature drop and a couple of the girls in the group simultaneously reported feeling something blow in their ears.
At the end of the vigil, I think everyone was pleased when we were told we could switch our torches back on, we then head back to base for a short break. I was surprised to find that despite the conditions in the tunnels it was still light outside and very warm.
The break gave us time to grab a quick drink, there was water and squash provided but I'd brought along a flask of coffee which was just what I need to keep me going in the cold through until 11pm. We were then split into two groups and Jill lead my group of eight to the original kitchens which fed the staff of the Rover factory, much of the kitchen's equipment was still in place adding to the area's eerie atmosphere.
Before we indulged in some table tipping, we conducted another vigil in a linked circle. If I learnt one thing yesterday evening it's that you should stay close to the person in the group you've got a crush on as ghost hunts have lots of hand holding. We had the same kit in the middle of the circle, as well as an electromagnetic field meter. Jill led the vigil, calling out to the spirits, the rest of the group joined in too and at one point we heard a metallic ping from one side of the room.
Then we crowded around two rickety tables to try to communicate with the spirits using a technique called table tipping. The idea is similar to that of a ouija board, all participants place a finger on the table and encourage the spirits to interact with it using our energy.
Jill started us off by asking the spirits to come forward but the four of us around our table didn't manage to get the table to rock, spin or move in any way. We did however experience a number of knocks on the wooden surface which at times seemed to be answering our questions with one tap for "no" and two for "yes." After a while it went quiet so I had a go at calling out, "don't you want to talk to us anymore?" This resulted in me being told off by Jill, "don't make that an option." Ooops, lesson learnt.
Then something odd happened, after Jill had left us to concentrate on the table on our own, we all witnessed a flash of light down the tunnel... and then again. One of the participants at our table ran off down the tunnel to try to find the source but after several more flashes and a little bit of investigation the source of the mysterious light remained unsolved. Could it have been the security guard we'd heard about earlier walking the corridors with his flashlight?
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We then swapped over and our group headed over to the medical rooms where Gemma was waiting for us, she too had two tables set up but this time there were chairs around each table and a ouija board for us to use. Gemma told us that the area we were in was the allegedly an operating theatre and intensive care wards dating back to the tunnels Cold War era, she added "if you do get doctors or nurses come through, that's probably the reason why."
I'm not sure about this, as the dispute with Russia was defused before any weapons were deployed neither the bunker or the medical rooms should have ever been used. I'm not even sure that a nuclear bunker would even be equipped with an operating theatre or intensive care, in other similar bunkers I've visited the hospital wing has only offered basic health care. However, the event's guides have said they've had medical staff and patients communicate with them from the spirit world before, it's possible that a wartime medical facility operated in the tunnels before the Cold War refit.
We took a seat in the small rooms on the ward around the ouija boards, Gemma gave instructions to get us started. We each placed a finger lightly on the planchette and moved it around in a circle on the board, this supposedly builds up energy. Gemma then called out to the spirits, as we pointed out parts of the board with the planchette, "this is a yes, then we've got a no over here, we've got all the letters."
Gemma left us to it and I started by calling out to the spirits, "is there anyone here in this room with us?" Sadly after 15 minutes of trying we were unable to make contact with any spirits using the ouija board, despite all four of us taking the task very seriously but it didn't matter as Gemma then came in to introduce the group to the next method of spiritual communication.
We sat and listened as Gemma attempted to talk to the spirits using an app on her phone called 'Spirit Radio,' the first few minutes were uneventful but after a while the app informed us the there was a spirit present and it started to spew out words. The idea of this app is that it's a random word generator but spirits are able to interfere with the app using electromagnetic energy picked up on the FM spectrum, this enables them to influence which word is selected and use the device to speak to the living.
Over the course of about twenty minutes we spoke to a few spirits but the one with the most dialogue was a male. One of the group asked "what's your name or nickname?" the spirit replied "black," perhaps a surname? Over the next few minutes we witnessed a string of words, "single, beauty, arrive, submit, and sensation." It wasn't very informative and our time was running out, we soon headed back to base where we were told we could spend about an hour exploring and investigating the venue for ourselves.
Exploring Drakelow Tunnels
As well as getting the chance to experience a real paranormal investigation, I was just as excited to spend some time exploring the tunnels, after all underground exploration is another passion of mine. Me and James, a fellow urban exploration friend who I went with, spent about half an hour wandering around seeing the sights by torchlight and there was plenty to see.
We stumbled across the telephone exchanges, offices, tools and equipment, and a few very odd artefacts that you wouldn't expect to find 90 meters underground. Firstly, there was a set of traffic lights long forgotten in one corner, but even stranger was a car.
The blue Ford Fiesta was parked up in a tunnel which adjoined one of the main passageways, a quick dig around on the passenger seat and we found a dropped receipt, it turns out the car has only been there since the end of 2016. How and why it ended up underground is more intriguing than some of the paranormal mysteries we encountered.
One thing I really wanted to do while I had the opportunity during the free exploration time, was to experience what the tunnels would be like on my own. So, I headed off armed with just my torch into the darkness. I spent about 15 minutes on my own and it really did add to the creepy vibe of the location and I constantly found myself looking over my shoulder.
It was actually quite hard to spend a proper amount of time on my own, as I kept running into members of the group who had split up to explore the tunnels. I bumped into four girls who had been in the other group when we were split up for the table tipping and ouija board experiments. It seems they witnessed a lot more activity than our group.
They said "it was a bit slow to start with but we did persevered" and apparently they had a few spirits come through, including one called Paula. They made contact with so many spirits in fact that they took a ouija board to the dormitories to conduct another seance during the free exploration time. Sat around one of the beds they made contact with the spirit of a 14-year-old boy.
The second group also had much more luck with table tipping, the girls on one table experienced lots of knocking, scratching and banging, while on the other table rocked back and forth under the participants' finger tips.
Audio Evidence From The Evening
I recorded audio with a Sony digital audio recorder for the whole four hours and spent today picking out the best bits and the bits which were loud enough to be picked up by the microphone. The audio includes the mysterious whistling sound we heard, the moment something was thrown/fell in the kitchen, and our reaction to the flashing lights we witnessed during the table tipping experiment.
Book Your Own Ghost Hunt At Drakelow Tunnels
I really enjoyed my evening in the tunnels, the group leaders were friendly, welcoming, and patient. The event was suitable for the most convinced believers and the harshest skeptics, there was an array of ghost hunting tools available and the event was well structured and interesting throughout.
If you're planning on attending a ghost hunt at Drakelow then there's a couple of things you will need to bring, a torch and warm clothing. It's cold and very dark in the tunnels, I also recommend a flask of hot drink.
As a skeptic it was great to experience a real paranormal investigation, especially as it's a topic I write about. I would love to take part in more of events, which include some of the UK's most formidable haunted location such as 30 East Drive in Pontefract and Gloucester's Ancient Ram Inn.
My thanks go out to Jill and Gemma for running the event, and all the participants for being good sports.
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